Friday, 28 September 2012

Comment: Hawks board Havant given Ritchie a fair chance

SACKED: Stuart Ritchie
STUART Ritchie has been sacked ten games into his eventful and ill fated spell as Havant and Waterlooville boss.

A mere 20 weeks after taking over, the man who led AFC Totton to a pair of promotions, a Wembley final and the FA Cup 2nd Round was dismissed by Hawks' vice-chair Jim Fallon, who kicked up the mother of all stinks to take him to Westleigh Park in the first place.

While the ambitious Hampshire outfit didn't set the world alight, they only lost half of their opening fixtures, a series of draws stalling early progress.

But this snap decision looks all the more incredible following a tumultuous six months where more than one club has been unsettled, along with the people within them – all the more galling now it was for nothing.

This sorry story begins back in March when Fallon, who helped to finance Totton's promotion push from the Southern Premier Division, went public in his criticism of the Stags' board before withdrawing his contribution.

He quickly turned up at Havant with Totton accusing their former benefactor of 'tapping up' players and representatives – Ritchie and assistant Shaun New were believed to be among them.

A month later, Ritchie and New had made the switch, leaving their old club managerless going into the Hampshire Senior Cup final against Eastleigh.

A raft of players were expected to follow suit, but the exodus never materialised as Ritchie kept faith with many of the personnel that had struggled in the previous campaign, escaping relegation to the Southern League with the last kick of the ball in 2011-12.

After adding Fallon's investment expectancy was high, within the Hawks' boardroom at least.

But the club suffered a double blow as early as June – Ritchie's right hand man New was suspended and subsequently sacked when he was convicted of theft and fraud from a previous employer.

Meanwhile, the Hawks moved to sign experienced midfielder Tom Davis who went on to accuse Fallon of offering 'under the table cash' in a bitter row that spilled over on Twitter and made headlines in the Non-League Paper, claims the club continue to deny. Davis subsequently signed for league rivals Tonbridge Angels.

After a promising pre-season, the Hawks were solid rather than impressive, drawing more than half of their league fixtures.

The turning point came in the last week when an FA Cup defeat at North Leigh (highlights below from hawksfconline), two divisions below Havant, was followed up with a 3-0 reverse at home to fellow Conference South strugglers Weston-Super-Mare on Tuesday. 

The Seagulls jumped out of the relegation places with a victory that dragged Ritchie's charges into the bottom three as fans chanted 'What a load of rubbish'.

In Ritchie's defence, it wasn't a 0-3 performance against Weston. Martin Slocombe's audacious 30-yard chip from the right wing put Havant on the back foot. Try as they might, the hosts were devoid of confidence and couldn't turn their pressure into an equaliser.

They succumbed to two late goals from substitutes Dean Grubb and Nat Pepperell who added gloss to the scoreline. Weston deserved their points, but Havant were not as far away as the result may have you believe.

After so much success at Testwood Park and Havant's drawn out protracted pursuit of Ritchie, it is shocking they only gave their new man ten matches.

Hawks fans have mixed feelings, some believing that Ritchie just wasn't the same boss without New.

But how many successful teams have been built after ten games? With so many players remaining from a previous regime, could this even be described as Ritchie's side? Not really. 

Enough has happened to drag the name of Havant and Waterlooville FC through the mud over these testing months and this decision only heaps on more dirt.

Whoever they appoint and however successful they may turn out to be, Havant cannot say Stuart Ritchie was given a fair chance. Coupled with the circus that preceded this panic measure how easy will it be to recruit a manager worth his salt?

The only certainty is uncertainty for Hawks fans, a feeling that must be quite familiar by now. As always, it is the fans who suffer. 

Monday, 24 September 2012

Report: Christchurch 3-0 Bournemouth - Wessex Premier

100% RECORD: Graham Kemp
CHRISTCHURCH are made of sterner stuff these days as their latest victory, a 3-0 success over local rivals Bournemouth Poppies, proves.

The same fixture last season saw Graham Kemp’s men lose 2-0 as the Poppies worked hard to stifle Priory’s passing game before preying on their defensive frailties.

It was a different story this year, though, as the Hurn Bridge outfit stood up to be counted in a clash where the Wessex Premier’s only 100% record remained intact.

Russell Cook’s hat-trick secured the points, but it would be harsh on his team mates to single out the former Poole Town frontman – indeed there was much more to Cook’s game than his goals on the day.

Bournemouth were clearly up for their derby day, hoping to upset the host’s perfect start to 2012-13 with ex-Priory striker Martin Warren spurning a decent chance after only 18 seconds, shinning his effort wide after James Wilson’s throughball.

Christchurch quickly upped the ante though, bombarding Poppies’ centre halves Steve Llewelyn and Charlton Clarke with a series of testing crosses from all areas.

Sam Griffin was in the thick of the action, seeing a goalbound shot cannon off Llewelyn and drift agonisingly wide before drawing two point blank saves from stopper Kenny Vaughan.

Scott Joyce wasted the visitors’ only other clear opening of the half as his low daisy cutter rolled wide of the far post after a slick one-two with early substitute Sam Purdy.

Cue more incisive Priory passing with man-of-the-moment Harry Cornick harassing everyone in his wake with pace and purpose – the wonder winger’s mazy run was just about halted by Wilson in the 38th minute, but he turned provider soon after, taking full advantage of some static defending.

Clarke had two chances to clear a Christchurch corner but only nodded as far as the 17-year-old maestro who crossed for Cook to plant his header inside the near post with ease.

That goal, three minutes before half time, opened the second half floodgates as Bournemouth were battered into submission.

Veteran Mark Smith pelted the crossbar with a 20 yard free kick, Griffin saw another deflected effort creep wide of a gaping net and Cornick skewed wide after some sublime footwork on the edge of the box within ten minutes of the restart.

The Christchurch of old would have rued so many missed chances, but Cook’s second doubled their lead, neatly finishing across Vaughan following Smith’s measured throughball into the right channel.

Cook was in the mood for more and Poppies struggled to handle his movement as their stoic resistance tired as the match went on – another clever run saw Priory’s number nine peel into the left channel and curl his finest effort of the day around Vaughan for number three.

Griffin missed a sitter and Smith’s shot squirmed wide as Christchurch didn’t let up in the closing stages – this was a clear signal of intent.

Poppies, in many ways, looked better than some of their early season showings – they certainly competed for 45 minutes, but the plaudits stay with the Priory. Are Christchurch title contenders this year? It is early days, but as their soft centre gradually gets tougher it becomes harder and harder to rule them out. 

*Post match thoughts from Priory boss Graham Kemp and Poppies assistant Stuart Underwood with the Bournemouth Echo can be found here

CHRISTCHURCH: Collins, Thompson, Legg, Crutchley ( c ), Lloyd (Burt 82), Yelland, Smith, Griffin (Cullen 79), Cook (Osborne 72), Burden, Cornick.

Unused subs: Kittle, Hicks (g/k).

Goals: Cook 42, 56, 68.

BOURNEMOUTH: Vaughan, Wilson ( c ), Lockyer, Llewelyn (Saadi 72), Clarke, Corby, Maguire (Purdy 31), Phillipson-Masters, Joyce, Warren (Swann 82), Jackson.

Unused subs: Coverley, Frampton (g/k).

STAR MAN: Russell Cook (Christchurch)

Okay, so he has to take the man-of-the-match award, but only just – so many sparkled for the home side in a real, physical test. Sam Griffin, Harry Cornick and James Burden were unplayable at times, while old fox Mark Smith whipped so many teasing crosses into the box and Jason Collins dominated his penalty area at the other end, but scoring all three goals decides it in favour of Cook after his surprise inclusion at the expense of Ben Osborne. 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Report: Poole Town 3-1 Beaconsfield SYCOB - FA Trophy Prel Rd replay

INFLUENTIAL: Taffy Richardson

SUBSTITUTES who make sure nothing happens can be as important as those who light the blue touch paper, but Poole Town had the luxury of both on Tuesday night, seeing off Beaconsfield SYCOB in the FA Trophy.

The pendulum swung back in the visitors’ favour when Anthony Page pulled a goal back after Carl Preston and Marvin Brooks had handed the Dolphins a two goal lead.

But savvy Tatnam boss Tom Killick had two aces up his sleeve, managing to stick then twist with a pair of well timed changes.

45-year-old Taffy Richardson entered the fray and duly snuffed out Beaconsfield’s momentum before Karim Lammali came off the bench, scoring a classy goal within three minutes of coming on to seal the tie.

It was no less than Poole deserved – they may have lacked a little punch before the first goal on the stroke of half time, but were the better side throughout other than a hairy ten minutes following Page’s strike.

Preston’s fierce drive cannoned off Craig Carby, looping over the crossbar inside the first five minutes before Brooks fired over from 18 yards after good work from Keith Emmerson.

Michael Walker flashed a header wide from Steve Devlin’s deep free kick while Beaconsfield looked threatening, breaking with pace but not testing Dolphins ‘keeper Nick Hutchings before the 40th minute when Gavin James’ low shot had to be clawed away.

As the first half appeared to be petering into stalemate, Poole’s pressure finally paid off as Preston's cross from the right  evaded everyone in a busy penalty area but Devlin cut back with the ball bobbling through to Preston who drove into the net from close range.

Devlin turned provider again six minutes after the interval as the Dolphins doubled their lead – the Tatnam terrier’s corner was nodded down by Walker for Brooks to smash back across goal at the far post, finding Jonathan Nydell’s bottom right corner.

The lively Emmerson’s cross-shot flashed wide shortly after, but the visitors found their feet and scored following a goalmouth scramble on 56 minutes – Justin Clayton and Yiadom Yeboah made a nuisance of themselves to help Page bundle home from a corner.

Substitute Nathan Poulton was at the centre of Beaconsfield’s resurgence, setting Ryan Blake away but Will Spetch intervened with a last ditch slide tackle, and Poulton himself went close curling wide from 18 yards.

Cue Poole’s own super-sub as Richardson added bite and drive in midfield, shutting out a side that were starting to look relentless and Dorset’s answer to Stanley Matthews helped put a cap on the result, passing to Brooks to find Lammali with the enigmatic striker finishing deftly with the outside of his right boot.

The win sets up a tasty derby day in the First Qualifying Round with Poole facing local rivals and Southern Premier outfit Bashley. Based on Town’s tenacity at Tatnam so far this season, that home advantage could prove crucial.

*The Bournemouth Echo’s post match reaction with Poole boss Tom Killick can be found here.

POOLE TOWN: Hutchings, Baines, Spetch, Emmerson, Walker, Kelly (O’Donnell 90), Burbidge (Richardson 59), Devlin, S Brown (Lammali 75), Preston, Brooks.

Unused subs: Chudy, T Brown (g/k).

Goals: Preston 44, Brooks 51, Lammali 78.

BEACONSFIELD SYCOB: Nydell, James, Carby, Clayton, Yeboah, Lee, Upward, Page, James, Blake, Walters (Poulton 56).

Unused subs: Saroya, Jack.

Goal: Page 56.

STAR MAN: Taffy Richardson (Poole Town)

The hosts played well on the night with Keith Emmerson’s drive and determination standing out, but when the chips are down Tom Killick always turns to his old mucker. Reliable as ever, Richardson offered the strength and influence to turn the tide back in Poole’s favour. Taffy may not be getting any younger, but it doesn’t look like he needs to be. 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Report: Bashley 0-5 Barwell - Southern Premier

EAR BASH-ING: Bash assistant
Gerry Murphy leads the on pitch inquest
IT never rains but it pours at Bashley Road at the moment, but Barwell were in no mood to show mercy as Jimmy Ginnelly’s men lived up to their pre-season billing as ones to watch.

After suffering the goal that wasn’t in the FA Cup at Gosport in midweek, Bashley were crushed by a five goal haul for the Canaries inside 21 first half minutes.

The hosts could have few complaints, even if they felt hard done by after Barwell’s opener that seemed to drain the life and soul from a flattened Bash outfit.

Following a tepid start, Luke Barlone’s controversial 13th minute opener saw the visitors crank up the pressure while Frank Gray’s charges capitulated in alarming style.

Referee Stephen Finch had asked his assistant to check the pressure of the ball before Barwell took a quick throw to Scott Lower who centred for Barlone to unleash his unstoppable drive.

Bashley’s players claimed they did not have chance to organise themselves after the check, but Gray did not blame the officials at full time, rightly laying responsibility at the feet of his players who gave up the ghost.

Barlone doubled the advantage three minutes later, again sailing across his marker to drive inside the far post after Paul Spacey’s touch from Jamie Towers’ cross.

That man Barlone all too easily burst through again on 19 minutes but was halted by Bash ‘keeper Joe Prodomo who could only clear as far as veteran midfielder Richard Lavery – the former Hinckley United stalwart showed his class by lofting a 35 yard effort over the head of the retreating custodian to make it three with the pick of Barwell’s bunch of fives.

The imperious Barlone drew a point blank save from Prodomo on 24 minutes, but the fourth was not far away, good work from Towers and Barlone down the right set up Matt West to cut back in and find Prodomo’s bottom right corner.

Wave after wave of Barwell pressure just kept coming as the visitors pressed a Bashley side fraught with nerves at every opportunity. A quick throughball set up the fifth with the hopelessly exposed Prodomo bringing West down for a 34th minute spot kick. Towers duly obliged with what proved to be the last goal.

The second half was predictably a non-event – Barwell substitute Tom Bates showed flashes of brilliance and went close after Barlone narrowly missed a presentable opening for his hat-trick – in a rare foray forward at the other end, James Stokoe struck the outside of the post for Bash.

Boss Gray admitted to the Bournemouth Echo at the final whistle that some of his squad may on their way out after this defeat, coupled with no away wins and a 6-0 home drubbing by Hemel Hempstead Town three weeks previously.

The reality is that Bash need freshening up if they are to compete this season and it would be a surprise if changes didn’t come sooner rather than later. Barwell, however, look the part in every area – their pressing game and unerring ability to make the most of the mistakes they force should send out a serious warning to their promotion rivals. They look as good on grass as they do on paper.

The latest on Bashley's FA Cup row with Gosport, including reaction to Borough refusing a rematch can be found here

BASHLEY: Prodomo, Smith, Finlay, Strickland, Middleton, Richardson, Casey, Hill (Gamble 48), Stokoe, Oliver, Knight (Lompato-Pires 54).

Unused subs: Farren, Gazzard, Kearn (g/k).

BARWELL: Castle, Lower (Oddy 46), Edwards, G Hadland, Albrighton, Lavery, Towers, S Hadland, Barlone, West, Spacey (Bates 46).

Unused subs: McAteer, Charley, Julien (g/k).

Goals: Barlone 13, 16, Lavery 19, West 28, Towers 34(p).

STAR MAN: Luke Barlone (Barwell)

Tough choice, so many of the visitors’ players did well in what was a real team effort. Barlone takes the award for opening the floodgates and playing his part in the multitude of chances that Barwell created. His strength, the timing of his runs and his finishing were a class above and on this display it is no surprise he attracted attention from Blue Square Bet Premier club Kidderminster Harriers over the summer. 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Report: Bashley 1-1 Gosport Borough - FA Cup 1st Qual Rd

Charlie Knight
A MIXED day for Rob Gradwell, a mixed week for Gary Middleton and another last ditch fightback for Gosport Borough saw this FA Cup tie head over to a Privett Park replay.

A cracking cup clash that had a nervy edge throughout seemed destined to end in Bashley's favour following debutant Gradwell's goal with his first touch after 50 seconds, but after a host of chances went begging at both ends, Middleton's inadvertent touch in the dying embers saved Borough's Wembley dream for another year. 

The Bash defender, whose crisp volley sealed an injury time win over Bedworth United the week before repeated his net bulging exploits at the wrong end, turning into the unlikeliest of Gosport heroes.

The visitors meanwhile kept plugging away despite a torrent of second half Bashley pressure and ended up saving the day as they did in last year's play-off final with Poole Town

Gradwell's explosive entrance, bursting through to flick home Charlie Knight's clever cross was the start of a decent performance from the former Basingstoke front man, but he will be kicking himself for not ending the contest with a pair of glorious chances in the second half that could yet come back to bite Bash. 

Middleton meanwhile had a solid enough day before getting the last touch on a deep free kick after Gosport substitute Luke King had made a nuisance of himself. Both Bash players will feel flat despite a good showing on the day.

DEBUT GOAL: Rob Gradwell

After the opener the visitors dominated the first half and arguably should have led at the interval. New signing Steffan Gaisie bullied the Bash backline at times, drawing a smart low stop from Joe Prodomo in the 4th minute before further chances went begging for the usually prolific Justin Bennett and Daniel Smith. 

The second half was a totally different animal though, and for all of Gosport's dominance before the break, it was bettered by the hosts with some neat and tidy approach play.

Gradwell skied two efforts from close range within ten minutes of the restart, the first after a swirling cross from Knight, the second after good work between Jack Smith and James Stokoe.

Sammy Igoe's low drilled effort kept Prodomo alert on the hour while Bennett headed over at the far post shortly afterwards, but Bash were in the ascendency, Stokoe forcing Nathan Ashmore into a point blank save that the Borough custodian repeated to deny Brad Strickland with five minutes to go. 

Bashley's best chance to end the contest came seconds later when Tom Hill skewed horribly wide with the goal at his mercy and Frank Gray's men were made to pay as the clock struck 90 with Middleton's touch trickling agonisingly over the line. 

The feeling at the final whistle was that Bashley may have missed their chance, but if they play the same way in the replay, Gray's charges are capable of getting a result. Gosport's tenacity gives them another bite at the cherry but they will need to show their quality for longer spells to make it count on home soil. 

*Post match reaction from both managers along with my report for the Bournemouth Echo can be found here

BASH: Prodomo, Smith, Finlay, Strickland, Middleton, Richardson, Casey, Hill, Stokoe, Gradwell (Lompato-Pires 88), Knight. 

Unused subs: Gazzard, Farren, Archbold, Gamble, Kearn (g/k). 

Goal: Gradwell 1.

GOSPORT: Ashmore, Woodward, Martin, Poate, Molyneaux, Ford (King 77), Igoe, Smith, Gaisie (Norton 50), Bennett, Wooden. 

Unused subs: Cook, Wilde, Jones, May. 

Goal: Middleton (og) 90. 

STAR MAN: Charlie Knight (Bashley)

Gave the hosts and out-ball in the first half, ran at defenders and tracked back with equal vigour. Got at his marker, Portsmouth target Daniel Woodward, throughout and was unlucky with a few refereeing decisions. Ashmore's double save late on turned the game, but Knight's overall performance deserves the accolade. Knight's class and higher league pedigree is starting to shine through when it matters. 

Monday, 10 September 2012

News: Table topping Killick wants Poole to play it again


TABLE topping Poole Town boss Tom Killick would wipe away the Dolphins’ strong start to the season to have another bite at the FA Cup cherry.

With his side leading the Southern League South and West table with four wins and a draw from their five games, Killick amazingly said this week that he would play all the games again in an effort to win the league match at Taunton and the FA Cup match at Yate Town which Poole lost 5-0.

The defeat left Killick’s charges kicking their heels this weekend prior to a trip to Beaconsfield SYCOB in the FA Trophy and the ultra-competitive Tatnam chief would turn back the clock if he could to seek a perfect record.

When asked if he would restart the season given the option, Killick told theonionsack: “Yeah, I think so, we’d have another good crack at the FA Cup and the points we dropped at Taunton.

“I would love to still be in the FA Cup, I know that’s a little bit picky but the Cup is so important financially and it gives us a weekend where we have no game, nothing to be involved in.

“The Cup for players and teams at our level is brilliant and going out was a huge disappointment and there is no point pretending otherwise but it is done now and our league form is very strong so that partially makes up for it at least.”

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Report: Bashley 1-0 Bedworth United - Southern Premier

Gary Middleton

BASHLEY bagged an unlikely winner through defender Gary Middleton after a stoic rather than sizzling display against Bedworth United.

In truth this was a poor spectacle between two teams that slugged it out in front of a sparse crowd at Bashley Road and it was not difficult to see why these sides have only managed six goals in ten games between them this season.

Bash boss Frank Gray admitted at full time that United looked the likelier to score in the latter stages, but equally the hosts created the better openings following a poor first half.

The visitors surprised with their team selection, dropping five first team regulars to the bench after a 3-0 thumping at Leamington, with the move backfiring as Bedworth offered little punch. Tom Byrne’s fizzing effort which sailed over the crossbar was their only highlight in a forgettable first 45 minutes.

Injury hit Bashley struggled to get going as well with James Stokoe’s wayward shot all they had to offer, but the hosts steadily built on their solid opening after the interval.

Stokoe and Charlie Knight both saw headers loop narrowly over while a prodded Stokoe effort was hacked away after the restart.

A breakaway from Bedworth should have given the Greenbacks the lead on the hour when Ashley Robinson caught Ian Richardson in possession and centred for Luke Keen, but with Bash ‘keeper Joe Prodomo out of his goal Brad Strickland was on hand to clear off the line.

Prodomo parried an Alex Dean effort before Liam Green’s shot was cleared off the line by Bedworth’s Melvyn Gourlay at the other end as the match finally gathered pace.

Influential substitute Ashley Spencer burst through from midfield, drawing a good low save from Prodomo while Dean brushed the outside of the post in the last ten minutes, but the best was still to come from Bashley.

Josh Casey set Stokoe away to draw the save of the day from Andy Kemp on 89 minutes but the home side weren’t to be denied when a Knight free kick found Middleton at the far post. The giant defender showed a perfect touch before volleying into the net, leaving no time for a Bedworth fightback.

Bashley's play often gives the impression they need more quality, but they are grabbing results where they need to. Bedworth will need their big hitters performing to establish themselves in this league while both could use a liberal sprinkling of goals to make an impact this season. 

BASHLEY: Prodomo, Smith, Oliver, Strickland, Middleton, Richardson, Casey, Hill, Stokoe, Green (Lompato-Pires 72), Knight.
Unused subs: Vokes, Speechley-Price, Gazzard, Kearn (g/k).

Goal: Middleton 90+2

BEDWORTH UNITED: Kemp, Dean, Haines, Tullen, Gourlay, Recci, Donaldson (Ashley Spencer 56), Bannister, Robinson (Piggon 61), Keen, Byrne (Kolodynski 66).

Unused subs: Andy Spencer, Wesley.

STAR MAN: Joe Prodomo (Bashley)

Hard to pick anyone that really stood out – Byrne shouldn’t have been withdrawn for the visitors as he looked like he could make the breakthrough and Spencer’s introduction gave United another dimension. For Bash, Middleton was solid and popped up with a moment of quality to win it, but had it not been for a couple of smart stops by Prodomo it may never have got that far. Won his place back in the side and has grabbed two clean sheets – repaying the faith shown in him by Gray.